Historical walks through the 20th century Barcelona  

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This crossroads between two of the main thoroughfares in Barcelona witnessed several important episodes in contemporary local history, becoming a crucial space for the historic memory in the city. In July 1936, days after the outbreak of the Civil War, thousands assembled here to salute the militia columns as they left, bound for the fighting at the front. Two years later, on 28 October 1938, citizens gathered once more to honour and bid farewell to the International Brigades, which had defended the Republic and now left the country months before the end of the war.

In July 1936, this crossroads witnessed a march of volunteers off to the war front. The CNT-FAI called for as many men as possible to muster at the crossroads of Passeig de Gràcia and Diagonal, by the Cinc d’Oros obelisk, to form part of the militias bound for the Aragon front. A massive crowd assembled, including both militiamen and members of the general public come to cheer them on their way. A few small columns left the city on July 22 and 23, whilst the largest departed on July 24. Two large columns were formed: the Durruti, comprising some 2,500 volunteers; and the Ortiz, with around 800 militiamen. The origins of these columns go back to July 21, when the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias (CCMA) was established with the mission of organising the country’s own militias, as a large proportion of the army had supported the military uprising against the Republic.

Two years later, on 28 October 1938, in compliance with the agreement between Juan Negrín, leader of the Republican Government, and the League of Nations, to withdraw all foreign nationals fighting in the popular army, this same crossroads witnessed another important event. The people of Barcelona assembled here en masse to bid farewell and pay homage to the International Brigades, military units established at the start of the Civil War and formed by foreign nationals from 54 countries. The different sources vary in their estimates, but most agree that there were around 60,000, volunteers, 10,000 of whom were killed in combat.

Many banners and flags expressing thanks were seen that day, whilst Republican air force planes flew over the area dropping leaflets thanking the Brigadiers for their contribution to the war effort. Some 300,000 people, as well as representatives from the institutions, all attended the parade in honour of these soldiers, whilst the band played The Internationale and the Himno de Riego. Today, a monument to the International Brigades stands in Barcelona’s Horta-Guinardó district.

Address: Crossroads Passeig de Gràcia and Avinguda de la Diagonal || Coordinates: (LAT, LONG): 41.388171458, 2.169884408

  • Periods:
  • Second Republic
  • Civil War
  • Francoism
  • Transition